Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Devil Has Quentins Heart - Birmingham Rep

The Devil has Quentin's Heart
Devised and written by Benji Reid, Peader Kirk and Ray Shell
Reviewer: Helen Chapman

A one-man musical (or perhaps dance-ical) telling the story of a Wall Street alcoholic waiting for Satan to arrive – sound bizarre? Perhaps. But it works. Very well.

The Devil Has Quentin’s Heart combines storytelling, theatre and dance in a modern tragedy, based on the Ray Shell’s novel Iced. It tells the tale of Quentin, a high flying Wall Street city boy who is desperate for success, and achieves it but at the price of his heart, and ultimately his soul. After being framed for fraud, he finds himself losing everything he has held so dearly, and struggles to hold himself together as an alcoholic living rough. The play explores his feelings of desire, greed, despair and loss, and begins to uncover the roots of his need to achieve success, with occasional insights into his upbringing and relationship with his father.

I can honestly say I have never seen a play of this kind – not just because of its original storyline. Benji Reid, partly responsible for writing the play gives an incredible performance as Quentin, portraying almost every emotion from anguish to elation. His ability to engage the audience, without a supporting cast, is impressive to say the least. Add to that the ease with which he flits between comedy and tragedy, monologue and dance, and things are even more impressive. Reid is one of the UK pioneers of hip hop theatre, and he demonstrates in this play how dance can be used to add depth as well as humour. The play isn’t particularly fast moving and there is no advancement in the plot, the variety of styles in the play however keeps you engaged. And a treat to see a quality hip hop dancer on stage.

New to me was the presence of the sound desk on the stage. Andrew Wong, responsible for the music composition, cleverly used a mix of sounds, noises and well known songs to bring the play alive. The set was otherwise fairly simple, just one room in Quentin’s house, but this in itself reflected the anxiety and claustrophobia he was feeling on his demise, the use of props highlighting the sad reality of the life of an alcoholic. A poignant scene for me was Quentin with a birthday cake, celebrating his birthday with three imaginary guests. The Devil Has Quentin’s Heart speaks pretty clearly: money isn’t everything. In fact in Quentin’s case, it amounted to nothing.

Breaking Cycles presents here an original play that will grip you, shock you and make you laugh.
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